Robert Laurence Binyon

(1869-1943 / England)

Whitechapel High Road - Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon

Lusty life her river pours
Along a road of shining shores.
The moon of August beams
Mild as upon her harvest slopes; but here
From man's full--breath'd abounding earth
Exiled she walks, as one of alien birth,
The pale, neglected foster--mother of dreams.
For windows with resplendent stores
Along the pavement dazzle and outstare
The booths that front them; there,
To the throng which loiters by in laughing streams
Babble the criers: and 'mid eager sounds
The flaming torches toss to the wind their hair,
And ruddy in trembling waves the light
Flushes cheeks of wondering boys
Assembled, their lips parted and eyes bright,
As the medicine--seller his magic herb expounds,
Or some old man displays his painted toys.
Deaf with a vacant stillness of the tomb,
At intervals a road deserted gapes,
Where night shrinks back into her proper gloom,
Frighted by boisterous flare
Of the flame, that now through a cluster of green grapes
Shines wanly, or on striped apple and smooth pear
Flits blushing; now on rug or carpet spread
In view of the merry buyers, the rude dyes
Re--crimsons, or an antic shadow throws
Over the chestnut brazier's glowing eyes;
And now the sleeping head
Of a gipsy child in his dim corner shows,
Huddled against a canvas wall, his bed
An ancient sack: nor torch, nor hundred cries
Awake him from his sweet profound repose.

But thou, divine moon, with thine equal beam
Dispensing patience, stealest unawares
The thoughts of many that pass sorrowful on
Else undiverted, amid the crowd alone:
Embroiderest with beauties the worn theme
Of trouble; to a fancied harbour calm
Steerest the widow's ship of heavy cares;
And on light spirits of lovers, radiant grown,
Droppest an unimaginable balm.
Yet me to--night thy peace rejoices less
Than this warm human scene, that of rude earth
Pleasantly savours, nor dissembles mirth,
Nor grief nor passion: sweet to me this press
Of life unnumbered, where if hard distress
Be tyrant, hunger is not fed
Nor misery pensioned with the ill--tasting bread
Of pity; but such help as earth ordains
Betwixt her creatures, bound in common pains,
One from another, without prayer, obtains.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

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